For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'.
- John Greenleaf Whittier
Perhaps the saddest words in the English language, and perhaps in every other language when translated, would be “If only.” But what is worse is not just the regret of what might have been but of being at an age where it seems as if it is too late to start anew by following our dreams. The so called maturity of the 40s and 50s also brings a sense of risk aversion as there is apparently more to lose, requires one to step out of a lifetime's comfort zone and creates a perception that even if the spirit is willing the flesh is no longer as strong.
This is true irrespective of what the dream is and whether it is carried inside for years or decades, for it is buried under layers of responsibilities and fears. That is until we come across individuals who having been similarly buffeted by circumstances, have shaken off all the dust and rust, have somehow gotten stronger and are now living the dream that many are no longer even dreaming about.
And since this is a blog of, for and by muvizz, let's take a relevant example. Every one of us has a story within us, and with the available technology and platforms (including ours), it is as possible to turn that dream into reel as it is write it into a novel. And if making a film has been your aspiration, whether often stated or not, take heart from Takeo Kimura. This Japanese gentleman is the Guinness World Record holder for the oldest debut as a feature film director, a record that is unlikely to be broken. At the ripe old age of 90 he made his first film “Yume no Manimani” (Dreaming Awake, 2008). What's the next excuse on that list?
In fact technology is a great equalizer and it is far easier and less riskier to fall and get up again then it ever was. No wonder we are seeing so many very young film-makers and it is about time we see many more debut film-makers above the age of 30 and 40 and 50 and 60...
And for those who think that you cannot become a successful director unless you start making films in your 20s, here is a short and very select but inspiring list from the start of the 20th century, when cinema was still elitist and very expensive. The list has more omissions than entries but is a fair representation of our case.
- Yevgeni Franzevich Bauer (b. 1865) was a Russian silent films director who's works had tremendous impact on early Russian cinema, especially cinematography. Film critic Kenneth Turan (LA Times) has called him "The greatest director you've never heard of”. He made his first film, “Dyadushkin's Apartment” (1913), at the age of 48.
- Robert Bresson (b. 1901), considered to be one of the best film-makers from France, was one of the inspirations on the French new Wave along with Jean Renoir and Jean-Luc Godard. He made his first feature, “Les Anges du péché” (Angels of Sin, 1943) at the age of 42.
- French auteur Alain Resnais (b. 1922) made his first feature, “Hiroshima mon amour” in 1959 at the age of 37, and which along with François Truffaut's “400 Blows” (also 1959) is associated with the emergence of the French New Wave.
- Ridley Scott (b. 1937) is known for “Blade Runner” (1982), “Thelma & Louise”, “Gladiator” (2000), “American Gangster” (2007) and the recent hit, “The Martian” (2015). He has been nominated and has won several awards in his career which started with “The Duellists” (1977) at the age of 40.
- Michael Mann (b. 1943) has been ranked amongst the greatest directors ever and has been recognized both critically and commercially for his works that include, “The Last of the Mohicans” (1992), “The Insider” (1999) and “Heat” (1995). He was 38 when he made his debut feature film, “Thief” (1981).
- Edward Yang (b. 1947) was one of the leading lights of the Taiwanese New Wave Cinema and won the Best Director Award at Cannes for his film “Yi Yi” ("A One and a Two", 2000). He made his first feature, the critically acclaimed, “That Day, on the Beach” (1983) at the age of 36.
- Michael Haneke (b. 1942) was 47 when his debut feature, “The Seventh Continent” (1989) was released. His films “Caché” (2005), “The White Ribbon” (2009) and “Amour” (2012) have all been nominated for and have won multiple awards, including the Palme d'Or and the Oscars.
- Ang Lee (b. 1954) is the first person of Asian origin to win Best Director at the Academy Awards, BAFTA and Golden Globe, and the only film-maker to win the Golden Bear (Berlin) twice. His first feature at 38 was the very successful “Pushing Hands” (1992).
- Alexander Payne (b. 1961) is a three time nominee of the Academy Award for Best Director including for “Sideways” (2004), “The Descendants” (2011) and “Nebraska” (2013). He made his debut at the age of 35 with “Citizen Ruth” (1996).
Closer home are film legends, Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, both of whom need no introduction. Ray was 34 and Sen was 32 when they made their first features, “Pather Panchali” and “Raat Bhore” (both 1955) respectively.
On a similar vein, albeit much older, is OP Srivastava who after 30 years as an investment banker, made his first feature length documentary on the life of film-maestro Girish Kasaravalli called “Life in Metaphors” and which won him the National Award for the Best Biographical.
Though it would seem premature and even imprudent to include his name alongside the giants, it is only in order to respect his courage and passion. Whatever his future endeavours might result in and whether he will one day be added to the pantheon is at this point immaterial. What counts is that he did not let his dream die and stood up to be counted.
And that for now is enough!
Life in Metaphors: A portrait of Girish Kasaravalli is now available on muvizz.com
What do you think we could do to encourage more individuals to start their second innings as film-makers? Tell us in the comments...